The Miss America Pageant’s ratings have been declining for years. The reason could be “The Bachelor."
Now, women aren’t vying for a crown. They’re trying to win the Neil Lane diamond that comes with being selected as the bachelor’s intended.
That point is driven home this year when two former Miss USA contestants (one wearing a sash) show up to play “The Bachelor” game with Colton Underwood.
They mention their pageant work and join the others in what equates to the “parade of states.” Ticking off a list of accomplishments during the first meeting, they also try out a bit of talent. One dresses like a sloth, another rides in Cinderella’s carriage.
The wilder the introduction, the greater the first impression.
Underwood, meanwhile, approaches them like Bert Parks, half-surprised, half-enthralled. He resists kissing them, too, and isn’t afraid to answer questions about his much-publicized virginity.
In the first episode, which airs Monday on ABC, we don’t get a full picture of him but we do see how ambitious some of the women can be.
Among the worst: Catherine, a DJ who “steals” him away four times and risks the wrath of her fellow contestants. She brings a dog, too, and expects Underwood to watch the pooch. Like Jennifer Coolidge in any number of Christopher Guest films, she’s a hoot to watch, but a sure bet to go home.
The woman in the sloth costume has a great gimmick but talks a mile a minute once she’s out of it. Like several others, she plays the virginity card and listens as Underwood explains why he’s billed as the first virgin bachelor.
Eager to play on that aspect, the show’s producers bring it up less than two minutes into the premiere.
They dance around other tidbits and delight when he finally kisses one of the women.
When the introductions are out of the way (and the wine starts flowing), Catherine begins her march to the First Impression Rose while the others badmouth her. All of the women are beautiful; no one really drinks too much the first night out.
“It’s so surreal,” Underwood says of the process. True, but there have been worse opening nights.
Underwood says his career (as a football player) took precedence over dating. The 30 bachelorettes represent “six times” the number of women he dated in his life. He briefly addresses his time on “The Bachelorette” as one of Becca Kufrin’s also-rans.
When Hannah G. tells him she’s nervous, he shares one of his mother’s tactics – deep breathing. That brings them closer and (wait for it) results in a kiss.
While the first installment skips the swimsuit competition (that should come later), it does give the women plenty of time to model evening gowns (two wear the same one) and test their poise under pressure.
Host Chris Harrison, who’s left to tend Catherine’s dog, doesn’t linger on the first night (too many women to greet) but he does ask the kind of questions we’d have for Underwood.
While the new bachelor is described as “better looking than Brad Pitt,” he is more personable than some of the recent titleholders.
As Underwood learned early on in his run on “The Bachelorette,” the real win isn’t an ABC-paid wedding but the opportunity to star in his own version of the mate-picking competition.
For some of the women, that seems to be the prize, too. They aren’t angling to be his wife. They’re looking to stay on this edition long enough to be chosen as the next “Bachelorette.”
“The Bachelor” premieres Monday on ABC.